Ultimately, I learned parenting simply by being a parent. Basic trial and error. More reactive to circumstances and events that presented themselves, rather than being proactive in determining “this is how I will parent.” As a result, some things were done well, some things not so well. In truth, trying to fulfill the perfection your children think you are is pretty futile. And no doubt vice versa.
In retrospect, there were three very important things I did learn. The first was that each child you have is different from one another, and different from every other child. So we have to individualize our parenting to fit the individuation of each child. Especially if you hope your child will become an independent-thinking , self-sufficient adult. That is where the true parental difficulty and creativity come into play.
Secondly, I learned was that my parenting job had to change over time. What was needed from me for my 1-year-old was vastly different when he became an 8-year-old, further when he became a 15-year-old. I needed to be very directive to my infant child; I had to give my teenager a lot of slack to learn who he is and how he would sustain himself as an adult. As a child, she needed to hold my hand crossing a busy street. As a teenager, she had to cross it alone. As an adult, she has had to hold the hands of others. The parent role is an evolving one.
Thirdly, I learned that I had to learn. The questions my children would ask me, the choices that they made, the personalities that they developed, the knowledge that I gained, all required me to question myself. Question my own thinking, my own values, the appropriateness of my own upbringing. The old adage is very true: the good teacher (parent) listens to, and learns from, his student (child).
This understanding of parenting is also applicable to God’s spiritual parenting of us. We want to think of God as perfect, as all-knowing, as omnipotent – all of which God is. Just as we thought our own human parents to be. In that idealization, we typically see God as somehow fixed in time and place, constant and unchanging. Not true. God is always learning, growing, maturing, changing. Growing by self-initiative; growing in reaction to human maturing. God just happens to be way ahead of us.
We err in thinking about God, and relating to God, when we fall into the trap of a “static parent” perspective. When we were a child – both individually as well as the collective whole of humanity and civilization – our singular and collective immaturity required God to be very directive with us. Do this. Do that. Follow my rules (commandments). But now, singularly and collectively, we are somewhere in spiritual adulthood. God has long since moved to more of a guidance role, cutting us slack, giving us room to exercise our own judgments – for better or worse. Like a good parent, God is always right there for us, available to counsel us if and when we seek it, but relying upon us to make good decisions reflective of our increasing maturity. God is no longer directive, but consultative, reflective of our own and God’s increasing maturity.
God is not static. God has changed, has grown, has learned about spiritual parenting from – in Western religious terms – Genesis through Revelations and to this day. Change is inherent in all creation, including with God. What we hear for our spiritual history should not confuse us, but inspire us with confidence. We are no longer the child Adam or the child Eve. Neither are we yet the spiritual adult we will ultimately become. God has been smart enough to learn over time, and to adapt as we have changed. We should be smart enough to follow God’s model for our own growth, and act more as the spiritual adults we are becoming.
© 2014 Randy Bell